“The world can only be grasped by action, not by contemplation. The hand is the cutting edge of man.”
― Jacob Bronowski
Twitter is an interesting social medium. Its unfolding role as a communication tool for central and county government leadership in Kenya has been fascinating to observe over the last twelve months. Two governors in particular: the Nairobi County Governor and the Machakos County Governor have been active twitter comunicators. The Nairobi Governor has used the medium to often inform what meetings he is about to have or has just come out of, or what new fangled plans the county administration is planning to undertake. The Machakos Governor on the other hand, often uses the medium to inform of the actual changes he has effected in the county which is then followed by all manner of comments on why Commentator X or Commentator Y needs to move to Machakos County in the very near future.
Last week was no different. The Machakos Governor, who honed his skills as an effervescent media content provider in his days as Government spokesman, released several pictures of the 120 patrol vehicles, CCTV cameras and a Machakos County Call Centre. A picture is worth a thousand words. And a media expert such as the Machakos Governor knows how to leverage on that. No shaking hands with some random folks who mean nothing to his constituents, just action at work. 10-nil was the public relations score.
The problem with good PR though, is that this action will have to be followed up with more action. The call centre will have to be manned 24-7. The second hand patrol vehicles will have to be serviced regularly, fuelled and, most importantly, driven by actual law enforcers. The CCTV cameras will have to work 24-7 and manned by human beings who can get in touch with law enforcers that have, you guessed it, a well serviced and fuelled patrol car to get to the scene of crime quickly. Hopefully the Machakos Governor has figured all of this out and has put plans in place. But what he is quite deliberately doing is generating interest from Nairobians as to how Machakos County can be a viable option to live in and commute to the ghastly crime riddled and traffic filled capital city. If successful, this will quite obviously lead to demand for housing as people want to live there. This then drives developers to start building housing units, the land values begin to appreciate which generates more revenue in terms of rates to the county since most of the surrounding land in the county is under agricultural use. Residents bring in businesses which want to supply goods to potential buyers, which means more revenues from business licenses. Since well educated professionals are most likely the target of the expanding modernization in the county, local corporates will quite likely consider setting up base in the county as its proximity to Nairobi and availability of talent is a clear attractive factor. The economic growth potential therefore becomes exponential IF the Machakos county government delivers on its pictorial promises.
If you have driven down Mombasa road to the Machakos town turn off, you will have noticed the daily cleaning crew that keep the roadsides clear of garbage and overgrown bush. You will also have noticed the beautiful flowerbeds that have been planted on the roadside as well as the street lights, quite rudimentary but effective, that have been installed and snake an illuminating path between the Mombasa road turnoff and Machakos town. You can actually spot the difference between pre-devolution and post devolution Machakos County.
The low hanging fruit is clearly being harvested in terms of cleaning up and presenting a welcoming front. The immediate challenge is working with central government resources such as the Lands ministry in facilitating faster land transactions and the Roads ministry in construction of feeder roads to what is largely an agricultural and rural locale. Electricity and running water are unquestionable imperatives for the success of the Machakos metropolis. To his credit, we have not had the displeasure of seeing the Machakos Governor preening about in political party shenanigans nor in council of Governors machinations. Perhaps in our limited lifetime we will watch the birth of a functioning city under our very noses.
In other completely unrelated news, the Nairobi County Government last year published a highly transparent Finance Bill 2013 with very clearly articulated fees for numerous activities that go on within the county. It now costs Kes 200 to sell aquatic fish that is 6-10 cm long, Kes 300 if it’s 11-15 cm long and Kes 500 if its longer than 16 cm. I want to see that City Inspectorate agent who tries to first catch and then measure the slippery fish at the pet shop over in Sarit Centre. The finance bill also describes some prices with regards to sale of plants but it is unclear whether these are the prices relating to sale of plants at the City County nursery or licence fees per plant at a private nursery. Anyway the prices as follows: Kes 500 for a plant in a container of 45 cm diameter, Kes 300 if the container is 15 cm in diameter and Kes 200 if the container is 10 cm in diameter. No guesses for what private nurseries will do forthwith: remove all plants from round containers and encourage the City Inspectorate chaps to go and check each and every one of the plants in the nursery. I jest though. What I seriously request is that the Nairobi County government gets to work. Enough of the kissing babies pictures and plans for eventual purchase of fire engine trucks. Put some rubber on the road and show us what the whole “Singapore dream” rhetoric was all about. You’ve increased the rates and the business licenses so give us some (not lip) service. After all, the hand is the cutting edge of man.